Parker girls soccer coach Neil Curran considers his program to be a hidden gem.
But the Colonels will no longer be a secret if they win the Class 1A state championship this weekend at North Central College in Naperville.
The Near North Side school will be attempting to win its first state title in any sport. Parker (18-1) will make its state finals debut at 5 p.m. today when it takes on Alton Marquette (19-5-1) in a state semifinal. Johnsburg faces defending state champion Quincy Notre Dame in the other semifinal at 7 p.m.
Marquette, the 2011 state champ, is led by junior Caroline Hoefert (17 goals, 11 assists) and sophomore Kate Sanfilippo (13 goals, 15 assists). The Explorers will be favored but that doesn’t faze Curran, who has guided the Colonels to 111 wins since 2006 and at least the sectional final in each of the past four years.
“They’re a legit club every single year, but by the same token and being up here in Chicago, we get overlooked by the New Triers, Loyolas, Lanes and St. Ignatiuses of the world and other big schools,” Curran said. “But for seven of the last eight years we’ve finished among the [top 16] in the state among small schools, so when we go south, teams from central and southern Illinois know who we are.”
Fans watching this weekend will know who Evan Fencik is. The senior forward, who has 24 goals and 18 assists, is the daughter of former Bears safety Gary Fencik. She and sophomore midfielder Olivia Amdur (24 goals, 25 assists), who scored twice in Parker’s 3-1 supersectional victory over St. Edward, pace a dangerous offense that has scored 99 goals.
The Colonels, who have won 18 straight since losing their opener 4-1 to Manteno, have six players with at least seven goals, including junior forward Mimi Vaintrub (15 goals, 25 assists). That, along with a defense that has given up just five goals since the loss to Manteno, is a big reason why Curran is confident his team can win.
“With all due respect to Alton Marquette and Quincy Notre Dame with regards to what they’ve accomplished in the past, playing high school soccer is not like playing English Premier League where you have the same group of players every year,” Curran said. “I think we have just as legitimate a shot at winning a state title as they do and I think Johnsburg does, too.”
Parker is assured of winning its first trophy and just the third overall in school history, joining the boys soccer team that took fourth in 2007 and third in 2011.
Johnsburg (14-6) also is enjoying a historic season. The Skyhawks secured their school’s first trophy in any sport by knocking off IC Catholic 2-1 in the supersectionals.
Sophomore Delaney Pruitt (22 goals, 11 assists) and senior Olivia Jansen (15 goals) lead Johnsburg, which will be a heavy underdog against Notre Dame (19-1-2), which is seeking its third state championship in four years behind stars Cassidy Foley (34 goals, 20 assists) and Jordan Frericks (25 goals, 20 assists).